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Members include Klaus Dinger (born on March 24, 1946, in Germany), percussion, guitar, vocals, banjo, piano, organ, bandonion, electronics, mixing, programming; Michael Rother (born on September 2, 1950, in Hamburg, Germany), guitar, bass guitar, double bass, vocals, violin, zither, synthesizer, electronics, percussion, programming.
During their brief time together, the duo of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother--both multi-instrumentalists and former members of the techno pioneering group Kraftwerk--were known only as part of the rock scene in Germany and largely ignored elsewhere. However, their music, commonly called "Krautrock," would later cast a major shadow over the entire rock world. Over the years, Neu! served as an inspiration for artists as diverse as David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Pere Ubu, Julian Cope, and Stereolab.
The music created by Dinger and Rother sounded unlike anything ever heard before in terms of composition and instrumentation. "Determinedly distancing themselves from the American and British notions of rock," wrote Richard Fontenay, contributor to Rock: The Rough Guide, "they mixed heavily phased fuzz guitars with a trance-inducing beat in songs that could take ten minutes to arrive fully in the listener's head. Their pieces invited concentration on sounds rather than stories, with vocals providing another instrument rather than a narrator, to create a world that was viscerally emotional."
Although they would later abandon the traditional rock formula, Dinger and Rother were both influenced by the popular bands of the 1950s and 1960s. Dinger began his musical journey as a drummer for a school band called the No. They composed their own songs, deriving their style from acts like the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. Dinger went on to study architecture for three years, but ended up quitting in order to pursue music full-time. After a six-month period of practicing, he joined a band called the Smash, who performed 1960s cover tunes and original music regularly in Southern Germany.
Meanwhile, Rother, in Hamburg, Germany, was playing guitar in a group called the Spirits Of Sound. They, too, played original songs largely inspired by 1960s rock. Other members of the Spirits Of Sound included singer Wolfgang Riechmann, who died in 1978, and drummer Wolfgang Flür, known for his participation in Kraftwerk beginning in 1974. Rother, because of his father's job, relocated often as a child and attended school in Munich, Germany, England, and Pakistan, before graduating in Düsseldorf, Germany. After school, he studied psychology for some years, then, like Dinger, he decided to concentrate on a musical career.
In 1970, musicians Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, formerly of the German free-form improvisation outfit Organisation, recruited Dinger and Rother to join Kraftwerk, a group regarded as the originators of techno and industrial music. At the time, they were a highly experimental band who blended instruments like violin, flute, and organ with electronic effects. After a six-month stint, during which time Kraftwerk recorded their self-titled debut, Dinger and Rother left in order to explore new ideas, thus the emergence of Neu!
Officially formed in Düsseldorf in August of 1971, Neu! took their name upon the suggestion of one of Dinger's friends who worked in advertising. Apparently, the phrase "Neu!" was the most common slogan used in German commercials. With Can producer Conrad Plank, Dinger and Rother entered the studio in December of 1972 to record their first album. The sessions, lasting just four days because the duo had to borrow money to rent the space, resulted in Neu!. Released in early in 1972, the album established Neu!'s penchant for minimalist melodies and lock-groove rhythms and became a surprise hit in West Germany, selling around 35,000 copies. The cover art designed by Dinger--a blank white background emblazoned with the single word "Neu!" painted in bright red--instantly grabbed the attention of record buyers. In England, thanks to heavy rotation by DJ John Peel, "Hallogallo," the LP's opening track also became a radio hit. Julian Cope recalled hearing the song for the first time and having his "attitude to ALL music changed," as quoted by Fontenay.
Propelled by the success of their debut, in late 1972, Neu! embarked on a tour of Germany with the help of Uli Trepte and Eberhard Krahnemann of the group Guru Guru. But with such a small line-up, they found themselves unable to adequately reproduce their studio sound live and gave up after six concerts. Afterward, in January of 1973, Neu! returned to the studio to record a second album, aptly titled Neu! 2. Halfway through the recording process, the pair again ran out of money. To save the album, they took two songs, "Super" and "Neuschnee," and remixed them at 16 and 78 rpm several times on the second side. Surprisingly, the remedy worked well, producing a disorienting and varying effect. For the album artwork, the duo again made a statement about consumerism by simply painting a flourescent pink "2" onto their previous cover.
Subsequently, United Artist released Neu!'s first two albums and the single "Super"/"Neuschnee" (at normal speed) in Great Britain to good sales and reviews. Lacking enough musicians to tour, Dinger and Rother took a hiatus from Neu! for the next few years. During this time, Rother worked with Dieter Moebius and Joachim Roedelius of Cluster. Under the name Harmonia, the trio recorded two classic Krautrock albums: Musik Von Harmonia, released in 1974, and Deluxe, released in 1975.
In 1975, Neu! reunited, along with drummers Thomas Dinger (Klaus Dinger's brother) and Hans Lampe, to record a third album with producer Conrad Plank. Released in 1975, Neu! 75 featured the group's best recordings. On the first side, Neu! showed their quieter style on "Leb Wohl", while on the second, Dinger and Rother opted for driving, mesmerizing aggression on "Hero."
Despite the great accomplishment, Neu!, after two live shows, separated again. Rother pursued a career as a solo artist, releasing at least five albums, while the Dingers and Lampe formed La Düsseldorf as a sort of continuation of Neu! with additional synthesizers. In the mid 1980s, Dinger and Rother reunited again for a recording session, though Neu! 4 did not become available until 1996. That same year, 72 Live was also released. These albums, as well as several other Neu! bootleg recordings originally issued by the Japanese label Captain Trip Records, have in a sense been "rediscovered," and Dinger planned to re-release all of Neu!'s albums on CD.
by Laura Hightower
Formed in Düsseldorf, Germany, 1971; disbanded in 1972; reunited briefly in 1975 and c. 1985.
- Selected discography
- Neu! Germanofon, 1972.
- Neu! 2 Germanofon, 1973.
- Neu! 75 Germanofon, 1975.
- Neu! 4 Captain Trip, 1996.
- 72 Live Captain Trip, 1996.
- Buckley, Jonathan, and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
- All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 23, 2001).
- Neuschnee!, http://www.members.tripod.de/neuschnee/ (February 23, 2001).
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